After our relaxing soak in the hot springs at Hot Springs, we spent the night at an awesome dog-friendly Super 8 motel near Black Mountain.
And then set off for the Pisgah National Forest and its mountains and waterfalls.
On a misty, foggy, clammy morning
we set off on the trail to Crabtree Falls.
It was a strenuous 3.5 mile loop through the mysterious forest. No one on the trail so we let the dogs run free so they could navigate the slippery stairs and steep ridges by themselves.
The waterfall itself was stunning!
The falls are right near Little Switzerland, NC which of course we had to check out.
But there wasn't much to see--it was more of a tourist outpost than a real Swiss settlement.
All the stores were closed for the winter.
I thought the Swiss were so hardy?
We had much better luck in the town of Black Mountain that afternoon, which was a very nice little town with artistic little shops to check out.
We had decided on the North Carolina trip because I have two friends who now live in Asheville, but one was out of town and the other, whom we were going to meet on New Year's Eve, changed her plans and was also away. So we decided to leave a day early and take a more leisurely drive back.
The drive included some really incredible scenic overlooks that made me feel like I was back in the Steens Mountains, Oregon
as well as another hike on the Appalachian Trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia
Great to break up the drive and let the pups zoom around a bit.
After the 65 degree weather we had on the beach at the beginning of our trip, the cold was bracing but seasonal
and at least it was still sunny, making for incredible views through the trees and across the hills.
We arrived in Winchester, VA in time to find another amazing dog-friendly Motel 6 with a king-sized bed, and to meet my friend Jona who is from Zimbabwe and plays mbira, and was playing a little demo/concert for New Years Eve.
I was hoping we'd get to play together a bit, but didn't anticipate he'd ask me to perform with him!
We played a few sets, and I relaxed once I realized that the dogs stayed nice and warm in the car as long as we came out every 45 minutes or so to run the engine. And just as the fireworks went off, Florian and I stole a kiss and then ran to the car to make out with the dogs.
Truly one of the best holiday vacations ever, topped off by one of the best New Year's Eves.
And just before we got home, I got an email that...Keller was adopted! By a shelter volunteer who fell in love with her and couldn't resist. I saw that comin'!